The Jaguars had the consensus top defence last year and were very close to beating New England in the AFC Championship game to make it to the Superbowl. They’ve kept most of their key defensive players going in to 2018 but question marks remain over Blake Bortles and the passing game in general
Reasons to be cheerful?
That defence really did look quite special last year. A defensive line featuring Campbell, Ngakoue, Dareus and Jackson was enough to scare most QBs. And then they bolstered it a little bit more with the first-round pick in the draft, taking Taven Bryan. Throw in the linebacking and defensive backfield corps and it’ll leave offensive coordinators befuddled about how to get through. If all the personnel play to their potential, then this really could rival the legendary ’85 Bears defence.
Whilst they did lose their top two receivers (Alan’s Robinson & Hurns) they did bring in Dante Monrief and drafted one of my favourite receivers in the draft, DJ Chark. Chark has size and speed to be a decent receiver in the NFL and I’m intrigued to see how well he does. The running game will continue to improve as well with Fournette coming back fully fit and the addition of guard Andrew Norwell from free agency. Norwell was one of the best linemen that came in to free agency and can shift defensive lineman out of the way, giving Fournette more space to run through.
Lastly, they got rid of those two tone helmets!
Reasons to be fearful?
Blake Bortles. I could just leave it at that.
The good news is that with this defence and the running game available to him, Bortles won’t be asked to do much. The bad news is, I don’t think he can do all that much. He’s not the worst QB to take to the field but should the Jaguars win the Superbowl I think you could line Bortles up with fellow luminaries such as Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer.
I’m not enamoured by the tight end situation in Jacksonville either. I liked Mercedes Lewis, he wasn’t amazing but was a solid pass catcher. They’ve bought in Austin Seferian-Jenkins to replace him who can sometimes flash potential but isn’t the solid reliable outlet that an indecisive quarterback can sometimes crave.
The AFC South has the potential to be as competitive as it’s NFC equivalent. If Deshaun Watson and JJ Watt come back, then the Texans can bounce back from last place. The Colts will rebound off the back of Luck’s fitness and the Titans made the playoffs last year. I think the Jags are the best team in the division still but it’s not going to be as simple as other divisions.
How does the season shape up?
If they continue their development then the Jags could take the next step and make, even win, the Superbowl. They need to stick to the gameplan and run the ball where they can and look at how the Eagles deployed a run pass option last year in a bid to try and get the best out of Blake Bortles.
Playoffs? They should get there and at the very least I would expect them to make the divisional round.